Tourism in Caribbean Islands

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1. Introduction

Many things have shaped the history of the Caribbean islands, decolonization, economic modernization and the globalization of tourism. When most of the islands became independent from foreign rule they needed to build up a working economy. Some of the bigger more resource rich island nations started to produce and export goods but many of the smaller island states did not have this opportunity. When tourism started to grow, both types of islands benefitted a lot from it, but it was the most important for the smaller islands that had basically no foreign income at all. Step by step the importance of tourism grew in the region, and at the moment it is the biggest income to the Caribbean islands. Tourism developed across the Caribbean in three waves. First, in the late 19 and early 20 century, a few steamship lines carried a small amount of wealthy North Americans to Bermuda, Jamaica and Cuba. The real take-off took place, however, during the 1950 and 1960 because of the growth of jet travel, the U.S. embargo of Cuba, aid-financed air and sea transport infrastructure, and the expansion of foreign hotel investments. Within two decades, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands in the north, Aruba and Barbados in the south grew into popular international resorts. During the 1970 also cruise ship traffic grew significantly and expanded to the rest of the Caribbean islands (Wilkinson, 1997). Caribbean vacation package is a product that is produced, advertised and sold for mass consumption (Duval, 2004). You can compare the Caribbean tourism industry to other industries as petroleum production or forestry, in that they all involve exploitation and using of natural resources. Caribbean tourism is mainly based on the sun, sand and sea. It is the same as with any other industry that is based on using natural resources, it brings a way for economic development and damage the local environment. The image that Caribbean islands have is beautiful white sand beaches, light blue seas, and coconut trees. Now if this image would be ruined by polluted seas and dirty beaches there would be nothing to stop the tourist to take there international currency’s to some other destinations. Tourism still is an international competitive market. But environmental problems are not the only negative effect that the massive amount of tourist’s cause who has been visiting the Caribbean islands. Also the local culture is affected. Caribbean islands consist of many small island states that still have their old traditions, values and habits that make these islands special. The changes happening in the culture are not only bad for the tourism industry but also for the local people. The locals are not very happy with the cost of living going up and their social norm being changed. This altogether creates problems between the local people and the tourists, sometimes even hostility. The tourism sector has been doing very well till now, but all these things can affect the business severely. 1.2 Sustainable tourism

Although a relatively new business, tourism has become one of the world’s largest industries in recent years. In 2005, international tourism arrivals reached over 800 million worldwide. 9% of global employment and 10% of global economic activity is tourism related (Travel and Tourism 2006). Taking into consideration how huge this industry is, it is not surprising that the tourism industry has an extensive environmental impact. Tourism development is associated with many different environmental problems as deforestation, coral ecosystem destruction. And this is not the only negative environmental effect of tourism, because tourism intends to bring rapid development into destinations and this can bring new kind of consequences like air and water pollution, in proper waste management. These affects are quite often multiplied in the Caribbean where the environment consists of one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth including beaches,...
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